New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: psychedelic punk

A Brilliant, Scorchingly Lyrical Short Album From Swedish Rockers the Plastic Pals

Stockholm band the Plastic Pals are connoisseurs of the edgiest sounds to emerge from 60s American psychedelia, 70s powerpop and 80s punk. Frontman Håkan “Hawk” Soold sings in English and writes sharp, sardonic, spot-on lyrics in a very individualistic vernacular. The cover image of their new ep It Could Be So Easy, Free and Fine – streaming at Bandcamp – nails their sensibility, a municipal worker on a bridge struggling with a chain while a shiny expanse of skyscrapers looms ahead.

They open with their signature song, Plastic Pal, a scorching mashup of Radio Birdman, the Buzzcocks and the Clash. In two minutes eighteen seconds, they let you know they want no part of any New Abnormal:

I’ve got a brain the size of a planet
And they have me parking cars
I’m cruising through the universe
For some money in my tip jar
Artificial intelligence sex dolls
And self-driving cars
I need a better option
Than stumbling home from the bars

They completely flip the script with the second track, If Love Should Call, a slow, pastoral Velvets-inspired nocturne with a subtle revolutionary message:

You say life is like a circus
Well here you are, there’s the ring
Do you comply with the terms of service?
You fly like a butterfly but how do you sting?

The layers of jangly, lingering guitars – that’s Soold and Anders Sahlin – are exquisite.

With a completely different twin-guitar attack, Hangin´in the Louvre is a slashingly cynical, backbeat-driven minor-key anthem, its secret agent man waiting for the museum to close so the team can pull off the heist.

They close the album with More Than an Icon,, bassist Bengt Alm and drummer Olov Öqvist driving the new wave pulse:

Like Elvis, you left the building, you just took your cross and split
This planet wasn’t big enough for you
Palm branches at your feet, the future was already writ
A classic case of too much too soon

Along with Karla Rose‘s ep from earlier this year, this is one of the best short albums of 2020.

Holiday Irreverence

On a macro level, holidays are always a good thing. In an era where workers’ rights are under fire more than at any time since the Industrial Revolution, anything that stands in the way of the bosses’ sense of entitlement is worth celebrating.

On the other hand, we in the west have become estranged from the winter solstice and harvest festival best remembered by the latin name Saturnalia. With all the religious associations weighing it down over the centuries, year-end holiday music has become a vomitorium of cheese and schmaltz. It’s time to take our holidays back! Here’s a handful of irreverent sonic treats to inspire you.

Jewish a-cappella group Six13 have a couple of seasonal tunes that deserve to be sung while the dreydl spins. A Star Wars Chanukah has some familiar lyrics set to the tune of John Williams’ Star Wars theme: the video, and the costumes, are the funniest part. Bohemian Chanukah – an update on Bohemian Rhapsody – is just plain LMFAO hilarious. The jokes are too good to give away, but it’s the one about the shonde known as baked latkes that might be the best of the batch. And as much as these guys are a comedy act, they’re actually fine singers.

On the Christmas side, the UK’s most prolific psychedelic punk weirdos, the Pocket Gods have a brand-new album, Rock N Rollin’ Fornicating Xmas streaming at Spotify. Frontman Mark Christopher Lee can’t keep a straight face throughout a punk rock Silent Night. There’s also a phony country song about getting fast food takeout with Jesus; a Ramonesy dis dedicated to Boris Johnson; a number about Christmas masturbation; and a sludgy, Black Angels-esque dirge, I Killed My Parents on Christmas Day. If December 25 bums you out, this will make your day a bit more tolerable.

More Searing Psychedelic Garage Rock From One of NYC’s Best Bands

Is this the great long lost Radio Birdman album? The Electric Mess don’t sound exactly like menacing Australian garage-psych legends, but the resemblance is luscious. If relentless punk cynicism, scorching fretwork, jugular-slashing pickslides, overdriven vintage tube amp sonics and wickedly purist, oldschool rock tunesmithing are your thing, you need to know this band. Their new album The Beast Is You is streaming at Bandcamp. They’re playing Coney Island Baby (the old Brownies/Hifi Bar space) on July 25 at 9 PM; cover is $12.

Their previous album House on Fire was a little heavier on the psychedelia; this one is leaner and more stripped down. The production is delicious: you can practically smell the scorch of vinyl insulation from the back of the amps, and the rhythm section are back in the pocket where they need to be, guitars and vocals out front with funereal organ tremoloing overhead.

The album’s opening cut, Disconnected kicks off with Alan J. Camlet’s machinegunning surf drum intro, hits a vampy 60s garage rock drive followed by a searing Dan Crow wah-wah guitar solo and a trippy early Pink Floyd interlude before the band blast out at the end. That’s about as ornate as the band’s songs get this time out.

‘I’m gonna crash about fifteen cars,” frontwoman Esther Crow announces as We’re Gonna Crash gets underway, Oweinama Biu’s jet-engine organ over the slashing guitars, looming bass and  four-on-the-floor GTO drums. Dan Crow pulls out his wah pedal on the launching pad again.

The snidely propulsive I’m Gone blends eerie Ray Manzarek organ, space acid Chris Masuak guitar and a kiss-off message directed at some kind of religious nut or new age freak. With twin guitars flinging bits and pieces of chords into the bonfire and Derek Davidson’s bass slithering upwards, the wry outer-space anthem You’re My Overdrive wouldn’t be out of place on Radio Birdman’s iconic Radios Appear album.

The guitars take that incendiary, chromatically bristling attack even higher in Snow Queen – Dan Crow’s cruelly spiraling, Deniz Tek-ish lead break is one of the album’s high points. The band keep the assault going in the gleefully apocalyptic No One Gets Out Alive; Dan’s tantalizingly brief solo sets up an unexpectedly funny vocal outro.

Seems like they turn up the reverb a little higher the title track, arguably the album’s most searingly tight number, Davidson’s bass building toxic waste bubbles underneath the guitars’ roar and slash. Then they get the wahs going again in You Can’t Hide, the most Stoogoid number here. “Let me your sloppy seconds, baby,” Esher leers over the organ’s evil oscillations. “Let me clean up every mess you make, I’ll keep away the promises you break.”

Things start to get a lot more eclectic starting with the Plastic Jack, which edges toward janglerock a la Plan 9. Fueled by retro organ, the regret-heavy It Happens All the Time is a rare midtempo garage rock number, while Mystery Girl is surprisingly Beatlesque.

Starry, Doorsy organ swirls through the pulsing vamps of Read You Your Rights; the band close out the album with Yes Future, a glamrock tune. House on Fire ranked high on the best albums of 2015 page here; check back at the end of the year for the 2017 list!

Exhilarating, Explosive, Echoey Psychedelic Postpunk and Dreampop from Bo Ningen

Japanese postpunk band Bo Ningen, who can be noisy and assaultive one minute and hauntingly atmospheric the next, have their third album, accurately titled III , due out on May 2o and a couple of New York shows coming up. On April 25 they’ll be at the Knitting Factory at 8 for $12 – and if you can stick around the neighborhood until midnight, legendary metal spoofers Satanicide (New York’s answer to Spinal Tap) play at midnight for free. Bo Ningen are doing a free show themselves, at Rough Trade two days later on April 27 at 2 and if you’re going to that you should get there early.

They call themselves psychedelic, and if you’re in the right mood, they are. Bassist/vocalist Taigen Kawabe whoops and squawks over the jagged, acid funk and crazed, spiraling pirouettes of Kohhei Matsuda and Yuki Tsujii ‘s guitars and Monchan Monna’s eardrum-pounding drums; other times, they slow down and waft through an icily ominous 4AD ambience.

The new album’s first track, DaDaDa opens with a squall and then an insistent syncopated bass-and-drum pulse. It’s basically an unhinged one-chord jam until they hit the chorus, like the Gang of Four but with more balls. The postpunk-funk of Psychedelic Misemono Goya (Reprise) reminds of the Bush Tetras right around the time of their big late 90s comeback, the guitars cutting and slashing against each other with an abrasive, reverb-toned menace and hints of dreampop as the layers peak out. Inu is a little slower, marching along like a mashhup of the Buzzcocks and Keith Levene-era Public Image Ltd.

The band kicks off Slider – one of the few tracks with an English title – with echoey minor-key chords and a series of big reverb-tank explosions and ominous contrapuntal vocals over a brisk funk beat. Like the second track, it’s basically a one-chord jam, but there’s so much strobe-guitar savagery going on overhead that you don’t notice. They open CC as a hardcore song with screaming, fractured English lyrics before a frantic sputter of guitar signals a sludgy halfspeed chorus – and then it’s back to the headbanging. By the time they wind it up, Kawabe is slamming out chords and the rest of the band has gone down into the mud again.

The slow, gently hypnotic Mukaeni Ikenai makes quite the contrast, with its lingering, bell-like guitar and echoey 4AD atmospherics. They bring back the funky buzz and grit and mingle that with the dreampop on the suspensefully stomping, midtempo Maki-Modoshi. Mitsume opens with My Bloody Valentine-like resonance and a hypnotic, practically disco beat – again, the guitars kick up so much of a turbine-in-a-tsunami squall that it obscures the fact that they don’t even bother to change chords. The rainy-day sonics return on the gracefully swaying Ogosokana Ao, followed by another mostly one-chord number, Kaifuku, its intricate two-guitar interplay cutting in and out of a swirl of reverb. For people who like edgy, assaultive music that you can dance to most of the time, this is pretty close to heaven. And it raises an intriguing question – how many other good, noisy Japanese bands are there out there that haven’t made it across the ocean yet?

Band of Outsiders Take Their Classic CBGB Sound to New Heights

Band of Outsiders’ drawing card is the twin guitars of Jim McCarthy and Marc Jeffrey, intertwining with the same kind of kinetic alchemy as Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine in Television, or Richard McGrath and Russ Tolman in True West – or, for that matter, Evan O’Donnell and John-Severin Napolillo in the Brooklyn What. The first two comparisons ring especially true since Band of Outsiders were active during the tail end of the classic CBGB era and caught the paisley underground train right when it pulled into the station in the mid 80s. A handful of well-received reunion gigs inspired the band to reunite in 2008, and they’ve been going strong since. They put out a tantalizing ep last year, Sound Beach Quartet and have recently released the full album, Sound Beach Time, comprising the ep tracks plus eight other new songs. It’s amazing how vital and inspired they sound after all these years – they might actually be better than they were at the peak of their popularity in the mid 80s. The new material is more expansive and also more dynamic – they’re a lot closer to Television than the proto-Brian Jonestown Massacre sound the band was best known for in their mid-80s glory days. .

The albums opens with Gone for Good, an elegaic, death-obsessed, Stonesy groove with flamenco touches and a long, brooding acoustic guitar solo out. The concert favorite Lost and Found works a steady midtempo post-Velvets pulse. It has a sarcastic edge: “How we walk behind the sacred cows, annihilating and sanctimonious….” McCarthy muses. With its evocative, reverb-drenched slide guitar touches, Red Eye Blues is even more memorably sarcastic: it’s not hard to picture Jeffrey scrawling the lyrics on an airline napkin, surveilling the twistedness around him.

Jeffrey sings the gentle, folk-rocking One Life Is Not Enough: “When you’ve got time for anything, you haven’t got time for regret” might be the best line on the whole album. They follow that with the bittersweet Gods of Happenstance, with both Television and Grateful Dead allusions. The Graveyard blends neo-Velvets groove with skittish New York Dolls glam riffage, while Your Pleasure opens with hints of acoustic Led Zep and then the Church, and builds methodically to a long, slithery jam, a rich stew of all kinds of delicously sparkly, watery, clanging guitar textures.

There’s more of that gorgeous, jangly, limitlessly clanging and ringing guitar interplay on Why Would You, a bitingly enigmatic backbeat number. The epic Trickle of Love winds its way majestically to a Beatlesque bridge and a wailing, crescendoing slide guitar solo before descending with a surprising gentleness. Time and Again, with its chorus-box guitar, gives away the band’s 80s roots, which the band maintains on As It’s Written with its new wave beat and hypnotic Feelies jangle. The album ends with the gritty, morbid magnum opus Dead Reckoning, the most overtly Lou Reed-influenced song here. Richard Maurer’s nimble drumming and David Lee’s bass give the music a lithe pulse that Reed seldom had, through garage riffage, echoes of glam on the chorus and one sparkling, spiraling, synapse-tingling lead guitar line after another. It’s a good story, too: somebody ends up dead on the kitchen floor, somebody else in the hills of Santa Cruz, Jeffrey’s narrator painting a vividly dingy punk-era East Village tableau, gimly observing that

The past is never gone
Like some tv that’s  always on
Look away but don’t you touch that dial
It’s said that all the world’s a stage
Well I see curtains on a cage
With no escape except you pass away

The allusive riff at the end drives it all home with a mighty wallop. Much as there’s plenty of good, psychedelically-inclined rock coming out this city, Band of Outsiders put a lot of the new jacks to shame.

Certain General’s Eye Contact – Their Best Album?

Who would have thought that Certain General would be around in 2013, let alone putting out what might be their best album? That’s not to dimish their early 80s recordings, which earned the first-wave postpunk band fame in Europe and a rabid cult following on their Lower East Side home turf, but they’ve grown immensely in the years that passed. Phil Gammage developed into the  underground guitar genius everybody figured he’d be, frontman and bassist Parker Dulany’s baritone delivery is as nonchalantly ominous as ever and drummer Kevin Tooley drives the surprisingly eclectic mix of songs with beats to match (and also produced the album with oldschool, purist chops). Thirty-three years after Dulany and a then-seventeen-year-old Gammage founded the group, Certain General’s songs still inhabit the gritty, shadowy, post-industrial New York the group cut their teeth in. They’ll be at the Parkside tomorrow, May 30 in the middle of a killer triplebill starting around 8 PM, bookeneded by Jesse Bates’ incessantly amusing garage band Los Dudes and then Certain General’s  long-running labelmates, psychedelic janglepunks Band of Outsiders.

The new album’s title track, Eye Contact, works an 80s art-pop vein, finding the missing link between the Church and late T Rex, with organic production values. The big anthemic hit here is Amen Everyday, with its roaring 4-chord hook and catchy lead guitar line, Tooley driving the thing with plenty of reverb on the snare. Sunshine Army has a bit of a Dolls/Heartbreakers vibe but with more focus and none of the camp, while Live It Down is Lou Reed all the way, Gammage’s off-center, sunbaked solo adding a disconcerting edge.

They stick with the vintage Lou atmosphere for the moody, nocturnal Sign of Love, guest guitarist David Lees’ atmospheric sheets of sound mingling with the organ. Meteorite could be an early 80s Bowie hit, but more down-to-earth, both productionwise and musically, Gammage’s searing multitracks swerving from new wave to funk before the band brings it down. Special Delivery works an ominous reggae groove, followed by The Horse Racee, a bizarrely cosmoplitan, jazz-tinged S&M boudoir ballad. Water Again and Golden Horses – the latter with Julee Cruise providing unexpectedly cheery vocal harmonies – remind a lot of early Echo & the Bunnymen, while Some Day Your War Will End takes a Gang of Four riff and bulks it up with layers of burning guitars. The album winds out with the slowly pulsing, slow-burning Sourpuss, glimmering electric piano mingling with Gammage’s slide guitar lines for extra menace. So few good bands from this era are left: it’s heartwarming to see Certain General still going so strong.

Band of Outsiders’ New Mini-Album Could Be Their Best Yet

Formed in 1980, Band of Outsiders became a popular CBGB act and recorded with Ivan Kral of the Patti Smith Group. They called it quits at the end of 1988, seemingly at the peak of their career, after touring Europe and releasing a tantalizingly small output of incandescent guitar-fueled songs. Their swirling, intricate yet powerful twin-guitar sound foreshadowed the dreampop explosion of the late 80s; their post-Velvets songwriting drew apt comparisons to another legendary CB’s band, Television. Band of Outsiders influenced an entire generation of dark psychedelic and garage bands, from the Jesus & Mary Chain to Brian Jonestown Massacre. Reuniting sporadically, and then for good in 2008, they’ve been playing around New York and have a new ep, Sound Beach Quartet that’s arguably the best thing they’ve ever done. They’re at Local 269 tomorrow night, June 5 at 9 PM on a great bill with Lakeside all-stars Los Dudes opening at 8, then their longtime pals Certain General at 10 and legendary John Cale collaborator and Floor Kiss frontwoman Deerfrance  headlining afterward.

As usual, the twin guitars of Marc Jeffrey and Jim McCarthy are the drawing card here with their edgy blend of jangle and clang. The opening track, As It’s Written has a surprisingly airy early 80s Feelies vibe, working its way up to an irresistibly catchy chorus on the new wave pulse of Dave Lee’s bass and Richard Maurer’s drums, with some deliciously circling tradeoffs between the guitars as it picks up steam. Likewise, One Life is Not Enough opens with spacious acoustic guitar interplay and then turns into a backbeat anthem with bright Tex-Mex guitar that wouldn’t be out of place in the Willie Nile catalog. The strongest track is the absolutely gorgeous, bittersweet Gods of Happenstance: it’s the missing link between Television and the Grateful Dead (there’s a very clever quote in there) as REM would have done it if Peter Buck had been a world-class lead player. The epic concluding track, Trickle of Love first builds slowly and gently, then hypnotically, then majestically as layer up on layer of acoustic and then electric guitar enters the mix. After a Beatlesque bridge and a slide guitar solo that finally sails up with a wailing intensity, it winds out on a surprisingly gentle, ornate note with a handful of piano flourishes. Short and sweet as this is, it’s a fair approximation of Band of Outsiders’ intense, crescendoing live show – and one of the best rock albums of 2012.